Sunday, August 28, 2005

Welcome to my store!


I'm beginning to build an online shop for you, dear visitor. You'll find this collection of books, music and film to be eclectic and, perhaps, eccentric. But that's what the ego-trip called blogging is all about. If my obsessions became your obsessions, then we would have world peace.



Darwinia, Robert Charles Wilson
On a single night in 1912, Europe disappears from the earth. In its place is an alien continent populated by bizarre (and deadly) species of animals and plants—but no people. With Europe and its entire civilization wiped off the map, the world is plunged into a global depression. While the United States prepares to attack the remnants of the British Empire (now ruled from Canada), an American expedition explores the wild interior of the new world.
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Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
This first volume of Robinson's masterful Mars trilogy was written shortly after the fall of communism, but dissents from the triumphalistic mood of the 90s: Robinson's vision of the future argues that we have not reached "the end of history." His epic of Mars settlement and expansion is psychologically complex and politically astute. The characters are fully drawn, the action is breathtaking, and there are moments of real beauty.
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Exclusion and Embrace, Miroslav Volf
In a word divided by culture wars and ethnic cleansing, is a "generous orthodoxy" possible? "I read [Volf] to be a visionary realist," says theologian Gabe Fackre. "He is propelled by his cross-resurrection faith to do and to urge works of love, to embrace the enemy, and he is confident in the coming of a reconciled world at the End to which Galilee, Calvary and Easter morning point."
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The Illusions of Postmodernism, Terry Eagleton
Postmodernism is supposedly a gift to the left: now that we know there are no fixed absolutes (except for what I just said), we're finally free from all those "unifying discourses" and the patriarchy that concocted them to maintain its oppressive power. No "discourse" has a priori a claim on meaning, and that's good news for marginalized folks (like me, a gay victim of the patriarchy). Understood on those terms, postmodernism has become the ruling ideology of "queer theory," including "queer theology." But what gives my discourse any moral claim over against the discourse of, say, a homophobic neo-Nazi, if there is no moral center from which either can be judged? Eagleton's entertaining critique shows that postmodernism has its critics on the left as well as the right.
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Ethics, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Let's start with Bonhoeffer, since Robertson coopted Bonhoeffer's heritage when defending his death threat against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. True, Bonhoeffer did join the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. But Robertson could hardly have read the author of "The Cost of Discipleship" and "Life Together." In "Ethics," Bonhoeffer praises an America he knew and loved, but an America that had a sense of its own limits. What other books should we add to Robertson's recommended reading list? Write me at
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The Humanity of God, Karl Barth
We can speak of God's humanity only because of God's sovereign decision in Jesus Christ to become human. God is "absolutely unique ... overpoweringly lofty and distant ... wholly other," but in freedom chooses not to be alone but with and for the humanity God created.
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Church Dogmatics, Karl Barth
One of the great theologians of the 20th century, Barth's return to the basics of Christianity was criticized as a retreat into the past, but Barth defies easy pigeonholing. A lifelong socialist, he was deported from Nazi Germany in 1935. Barth was the primary author of the Barmen Declaration—a theological protest against the nazification of the Christian churches in Germany. This book is an inexpensive digest of the best from Barth's monumental 14-volume "Church Dogmatics."
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Church Dogmatics, Karl Barth
The complete 14-volume "Church Dogmatics" in a quality paperback edition: a magesterial work of 20th-century theology and an indispensible aid to preachers and students.
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Psalms of the Reformation
The Reformed churches in 16th-century Europe pioneered a new, and strikingly spiritual, form of four-part liturgical chant. The emerging Reformed tradition abolished the Mass and its ceremonies, but not music. Their metrical psalm chants have survived through the centuries, and in these performances by an outstanding French choir that specializes in Renaissance music, these simple but masterful harmonies will tug at your heart.
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The Chants of the Reformation in Hungary
During the early flowering of Reformation in 16th-century Hungary, musicians imported new styles of metrical psalm-singing from Switzerland and France (see the CD above). But the Hungarian Reformed Church also continued to sing the familiar plainchant of the Middle Ages—with texts translated from Latin to Hungarian and adapted to Protestant doctrine. The choir of the Reformed College of Debrecen breathes new life into both ancient styles—with professionalism and grace.
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Music of the Reformation
This rare 2-CD collection juxtaposes the liturgical poetry of two Reformers: Martin Luther and Thomas Müntzer. Performed by the Kreuzchor, the legendary choir of men and boys at Dresden's Lutheran Church of the Holy Cross, this anthology is a unique journey through music into the turbulent political and spiritual landscape of 16th-century Europe.

Müntzer, a Catholic priest who embraced the Reformation, was a Biblical literalist who believed the Bible promised a social revolution in which the rich would be dispossessed and the poor would inherit the earth. He led revolutionary troops into battle in the "Peasants' Revolt"—a quixotic and ultimately doomed campaign to overthrow the German ruling class. Luther, on the other hand, remained loyal to his wealthy benefactors: Müntzer, though a former ally, occupied a special place in his gallery of theological horrors. When the Peasants' Revolt foundered both Müntzer and his writings were obliterated; but some of his music survived.

Surprisingly, Müntzer's musical style is the more conservative of the two. He translated the traditional texts of the Latin Mass and Divine Office into contemporary German but retained the historic Gregorian melodies and psalm tones. Luther, who was more sophisticated musically, turned his texts over to the most advanced composers of the German Renaissance. Müntzer's monodic chants and the rich polyphonic treatments of Luther's liturgical poetry are communicated brilliantly in performances that are technically nearly perfect. Fans of Gregorian chant should compare these down-to-earth German interpretations with the more fluid style popularized by Solesmes. But emotion is not absent from these recordings: particularly in the compositions by Luther's friend, Johann Walther, the choir and instrumentalists bring the listener to the intensity of religious ecstasy the composer (and the Reformer) intended.
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Trotz Alledem (In Spite of Everything)
A rare collection, sung both by workers' choirs during the Weimar Republic and GDR choirs after the war, of the revolutionary classics: this was the street and protest repertory of communist and socialist parties for much of the 20th century.
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Songs of the Working Class-Songs of the Spanish Civil War
Singer and actor Ernst Busch was one of the leading interpreters of Brecht's musical theater. His career spanned the Berlin stage of the 1920s, the Spanish Civil War, imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps and the attempted revival of working-class culture in postwar East Germany. In this unusual album, Busch interprets the repertory of the romantic revolutionaries who battled the Nazi SA on the streets of Berlin and fought in the International Brigades against Franco's Fascists. His aggressive style may be an acquired taste, but the militancy of these songs communicates the passion of a bygone era—when musicians like Busch believed their art could help change history.
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"Ostalgie"—from the German words for "East" ("Ost") and "nostalgia" ("nostalgie"). Here are other sources:

Gowen Militaria
BarbaRossa Musik
DEFA Film Library

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